Won’t You Join Me?

Cedar Lake Camp & Retreat Center

Won’t You Join Me?

Part of My True Story

Written by Ryan Higgins

I made a new friend recently. We met at the local Crossfit gym. Before long he was telling me details of his story, how he took the scenic route to faith in Jesus Christ. His journey was similar to mine in many ways. There was much alcohol, immorality, and seeking for purpose and truth in all the wrong places.

I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s observation in Mere Christianity: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exist. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water…If I find in myself a desire in which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

I concur with Lewis. There are few experiences this planet offers I have yet to partake. I have visited big cities and little villages on multiple continents. I’ve snorkeled with manta rays and sharks in Belize and ridden an elephant through the jungles of Thailand. I was accosted in Greece and hiked Mt. Olympus the same week. I’ve shared company with millionaires in America and spent time with the poorest of the poor in Haiti. I hold a Master’s degree; have a great job and a beautiful wife along with five children. I’ve completed an Ironman and most recently a triple marathon. I could easily write chapter after chapter of stories. I know gain and I know loss. I know health and pain alike, anxiety and contentment.

The Apostle Paul says it best, however: “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish so that I may gain Christ and may be found in Him…” No matter how great the experience, nothing compares to knowing Jesus Christ, the King of kings.

In my earlier days, I raced motocross, jumped off bridges, and lived for the party scene. (Adrenaline is addicting!) None of these things are bad in and of themselves but for me, I was seeking. Though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, I was searching for purpose, acceptance, and love.  Those desires longed to be filled and no experience of the world could satisfy them. Despite repeating many of the same experiences over and over, the satisfaction was brief. Ultimately, I was left empty.

Once after fishing all day with a friend, we cooked over an open fire that night. We enjoyed fried fish and taters while sipping on suds from a long-neck beer bottle. The weather was perfect and in a rare moment, I was quite relaxed. I thought, “It just doesn’t get any better than this.” I felt happy. And isn’t that the point of life anyway? I had no idea at the time how woefully inadequate that conclusion was.

What I didn’t realize was the depth of my offense against God. No, I wasn’t cursing God or even angry at Him. I was simply clueless to the truths of God. Not only was I searching for happiness, truth, and purpose in the wrong places but my sins were not making the Lord happy either. That’s an understatement. In reality, had I died in high school or my first two years of college, I would have gone to hell.

Stop being dramatic, Ryan. I wish I was. I’m talking about the actual place of eternal fire and torment. Jesus said there is much “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in this place. Why was I on my way to hell- because my sins were many? Believe me, they were many. Were they particularly bad? They were awful. But the reason was that they existed at all.

At the time, I might had generally agreed with Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Yep. We all mess up. Nobody’s perfect. Including me. But recognizing the ramifications of that sin is best explained in another verse. Romans 6:23 says, “for the wages of sin is death …” Not just physical death but spiritual death- separation from God forever. Jesus said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” This is a hard pill to swallow. Why does God send people to hell? Doesn’t He love people? Certainly. He doesn’t do it because He is bad but rather because He is so extremely good.

God is loving. But He’s also holy. That word means “set apart”- not like anything else. If we all sin and that sin separates us from God, with whom we want to be, what are we to do? It’s quite a predicament. How does one get rid of sin in order to go to Heaven to be with Jesus Christ? As mentioned before, it’s not through any experience this world has to offer. It’s not by earning an advanced degree, getting married, having kids, making money, accumulating material possessions, or accomplishing some goal.

The second part of Romans 6:23 is so important. The full verse reads, “for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life is a gift and made available through Christ. Well, what did He do? Because He had no sin of His own, He was able to pay the penalty for OUR sin by satisfying God’s wrath through His own death. That’s how terrible sin is. Life must be given to remove God’s anger against it. In the Old Testament there was a whole system of animal sacrifices that kept God’s wrath at bay but as the author of Hebrews explains, “the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin.” But the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross is ONCE and FOR ALL.

No amount of good deeds can ever remove our sin. No amount of dollars can bribe our way into Heaven. And no other person or religion throughout all of history can grant eternal life. All other so-called religious leaders and teachers are still in their graves. But the tomb of Jesus is empty. He overcame sin on the cross and defeated death through the resurrection. And now offers to us eternal life through faith in Him and what He did for us.

Unless we understand the depth of our sin we will never grasp the depth of God’s love for us shown on the cross. Some like to argue they are good people. I would like to ask, based on what standards? Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever had lustful, adulterous, or even murderous thoughts? Have you ever been a glutton or gotten drunk? Have you ever coveted someone else’s property? You can see they add up in a hurry. Compared to other people, we can always make ourselves out to be saints. But when we use a fixed, absolute, immovable standard such as God’s law, our true self and situation is revealed. And it’s not a pretty picture.

We must be honest with ourselves and admit we are sinners in need of rescuing. We can’t do it on our own. And no one else can do it for us. We can’t go to Heaven based on our parents’ faith. It’s only through our personal confession of sin to Almighty God, the Judge of all the earth, and a trusting faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only remedy to our sinful situation.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Don’t you want that? Don’t you want to know FOR SURE that your sins are forgiven and you have a home in Heaven waiting for you? Don’t you want to go to Heaven and not Hell? Then simply turn to Christ in faith. No one else has the words of eternal life. Confess your sins, ask His forgiveness and make a commitment to turn from your sinful ways and start a NEW way by following Jesus. He’s already done the difficult work for us by giving His life. He did something for us that we could never do for ourselves. We need only believe then act on it.

I would be remiss if I did not warn you of the road that follows. Following Jesus is a difficult life, often marked with suffering. Jesus said, “Anyone who would come after me must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow after me. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Following Jesus is a daily commitment, nay, a dying of self. Some who heard the difficult words of Jesus turned away. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. Don’t be one who turns away.

When we give control of our lives over to Jesus we become new creations, says the Apostle Paul. “The old has passed and the new has come.” For those of you who have tried satisfying the cravings of your soul with the things of this world, the time has come to set those aside and surrender to Jesus Christ. He alone can quench our thirst for truth, purpose, love, and acceptance.

King David wrote, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.” When we follow through with that invitation, when we taste and experience God in His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, promises, and all those entail, we will personally understand that the Lord is good. Then all glory goes to God. Not things of this world, not experiences, not any other human. Glory to God whose love compelled Him to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Glory to God who was, and is, and is to come. Glory to God who is completely whole in and of Himself, who doesn’t need us, but yet invites us to join Him in the life He offers.

In May 2000 I asked Jesus to save me from my sin and fix the problem I had so long endured. From this point on, EVERYTHING changed. The blinders came off. The old Ryan died. A new birth had taken place and I was a new creature with a new heart, new mind, and new priorities. Won’t you join me in this pursuit? Jesus is inviting. Will you join Him?